Rhubarb, Rhubarb everywhere I look but can you harvest and eat it after midsummer?

Debate: Can rhubarb be pulled and eaten after Midsummers Eve … Yes or No

Here in the walled garden there are several patches of rhubarb.  It grows so well I am easily able to supply neighbours and friends with as much as they can carry away with them to make crumbles, jam and chutney with.  Most of them bring some back after it has been processed. My favourite is rhubarb and ginger jam (hint, hint).  The rhubarb cupcakes where excellent last month too (better keep in there too).  The rhubarb also keeps us supplied with ‘fruit’ until the orchard starts producing cherries, plums, greengages, apples and pears.

There are two really big rhubarb (giant) patches and  two patches of some smaller stuff (wee).  I assume that they must be different varieties but as I did not plant them I do not know for sure.  It may be due to the growing conditions in different parts of the garden.

The original giant rhubarb patch

We have transplanted some of the giant rhubarb to another site and it took really well and grows just as big as it did on the original site which is still producing loads of rhubarb too.

Newest giant rhubarb patch planted 3 years ago

The wee rhubarb

The wee rhubarb

My significant other forced a patch of the wee rhubarb this year by putting a bin over it…. lovely early rhubarb was the result.

The wee rhubarb versus the Giant Rhubarb

I placed a pair of secateurs between the two sizes of rhubard to give and idea of scale.   As you can see the giant stuff is a wider than the secateurs.

Several of the regular visitors to our garden have told me that rhubarb should not be harvested after midsummer.  The reasons given to me on more than one occasion are these: – ‘That the rhubarb needs to rest’ or ‘it needs its energy to flower or it will die’.  Other people seem to have different ideas.   A local woman of great age (nearly 90) said that rhubarb jam was best made at the end of the season about the end of August.  The local flower show has rhubarb as one of its categories and that Flower Show does not take place till mid August.  (One of the organisers has asked me to exhibit at it this year and she also said that my rhubarb was beautiful, succulent and well-flavoured.  I think I will enter it into the giant vegetable category too).

So the question remains, should I or should I not still be harvesting rhubarb now since midsummer was a couple of days ago.  I pulled some again today and made rhubarb crumble with it.  The wee one said I should photograph it and put it on my blog but I forgot and it is half eaten now…… oops. (Yummy).

Anyway the pressure is mounting from those who think it should not be harvested after midsummer (as they are friends of mine they shall remain nameless).  There is still a ton of it out there.  So should I run out there and pull it all and freeze or just keep harvesting it fresh?  So to solve my dilemma I googled online and looked through my gardening books.

The Guardian newspaper has an article which states rhubarb can be field grown from April to September   http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/27/seasonal-food-rhubarb

The Allotment Book says to use excess rhubarb as a barrier against rabbits because they detest it.  I have taken this advice and planted my new vegetable patch right next to the rhubarb to use as biological pest control  (but the Jury is out on that one at the moment, as I am sure I have seen baby rabbits running away to hide in among my giant rhubarb).

Oh I forgot to say…. I have found the ultimate book for advice on Fruit and Veg in Scotland… Yipee.  It was only published last month and it is called wait for it….  Fruit and Vegetables for Scotland (What to grow and how to grow it) by Kenneth Cox and Caroline Beaton.  http://www.glendoick.com/index.php?page=fruitandveg    On the subject of rhubarb it states as follows quote ‘After Midsummer, the oxalic acid builds up in the thicker stems making them inedible.  You may be able to continue picking thinner younger stems. Cut flowering stems off if you want to prolong the crop, as this helps young stem production.’   Which is, guess what?  Exactly what I have been doing for the past four years.

The upshot of all my research is that I now have a scientifically based riposte to give to all the naysayers on the subject of harvesting rhubarb after midsummer.   Sorted.

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The pond and Rockery aka The rain garden

The Forecast is rain solid for the next three days so I can say with some certainty that the Annual Monsoon Season has arrived here in Scotland. (Well we must be allowed to call the rainy season from June till the kids go back to school in August the Monsoon Season especially if we can now officially can call the high winds that we get hurricanes.  I refer to the impact that ‘Hurricane Bawbag’ had on the worlds media.)

With rain and water in mind I thought I would be appropriate to do a water related blog.  The idea came not long after reading a really interesting blog on rain gardens by The Soulsby Farm.  It was the next day actually when I was out weeding in the garden around the Rockery and the Pond when it eventually dawned on me that I already had a rain garden.  The Rockery and the area around the Pond are on a slope and the water runs off the orchard and the tarmacadam paths around the house down towards that area.   The rainfall seems to head to that point in the garden from other directions too.  In fact during the flash floods we had a few months back, before the field behind us was planted with this years crop, the water was running off the field and straight up our drive towards this area.  So there are several clumps of marsh grass around too.  It is really quite boggy down there.

‘The Rain garden’ aka ‘The area around the garden pond’

OK it was looking a bit neglected but it was a rain garden.  I confess that I had to give the rockery a bit a wee bit of a weed before I took this photo.  I also removed the Duckweed from the pond with the garden rake.  I took out a load of Elodea pond weed back in March but the duckweed had taken its place. It must have been the hot weather that encouraged the duckweed to thrive.  I have left some of the weeds as they are obviously native plants that like boggy ground.  You cannot see them in this shot of the pond. There are also some pieces of pipe placed around to divert water to this area.  More photos are required I think.

When we first arrived here, nearly five years ago now, the pond had an Iron Cage over it.  At first I thought the cage was because the previous owners of the house had a small toddler and never gave it anymore thought.

Then the following year some friends came to visit on a May Day Bank holiday.  The guys were very keen to do something in the garden to help. They were drawn to the garden pond as they were a little concerned that the pond looked a little over grown and the fish did not have enough room to swim about.  So they took off the Iron Cage off the pond, they caught the goldfish with a net and put them in a bucket to keep them safe and got to work.  I put the BBQ on. A few hours later the pond and been cleared of Pondweed and Bull Rushes. The water was still a bit cloudy when they popped the gold-fish back into the pond and went off home fed and watered but without replacing the Iron Cage.  The next day I checked on the goldfish,  just to make sure they had survived their surprise house keeping.  All was well and they were swimming about quite happily.   I checked again the following day and the goldfish were gone, they had completely vanished and were never seen again.  Why? The iron cage was not to prevent small children falling in the pond after all.  I was later told by some previous owners that it had been put there to stop the Herons from getting the goldfish, as all other methods including a plastic decoy heron had failed.

Anyway, the cage remains off the pond and there are no fish in it but there are loads of other interesting stuff.  Pond skaters, toads….etc.

Another view of the pond.  This is our cat Crieff.   He is in charge of furry pest disposal.  He is quite camera-shy and it took quite a few attempts to get this photo.  He came to live here two years ago from the Whinney Bank Cat Sanctuary.  He loves to sunbathe on the rock garden. He also follows me around the garden when I am weeding to take care of anything that might appear out of the undergrowth.

Biological rabbit deterrent posing by the pond

Some of Hostas in and around the pond and rockery

The Rockery contains bits of masonry from the Castle and probably from the Abbey down at Lindores too.   This bit might be the central boss from the abbey.

Look what I spotted by the pond …..

A Dragon Fly with a turquoise tail

A Dragon Fly….. I was so excited I had never seen one in the garden before.   I only spotted it when I went to take pictures of the Yellow Flag Irises that were growing around the pond.  These Irises are an example of a native plant taking advantage of a boggy area.

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A riot has broken out in the Orchard …. The Flowers are winning

After yesterdays update on weed and pest control in the garden I thought today a wee show of what is in flower in the garden this week was in order.  I have some really big borders in the garden and I am trying to fill them up with perennials that will out compete the weeds.  I also want to keep the garden as bee friendly as possible so I leave some of the nicer looking weeds in if they behave.

I took a friend around the garden the other day and all I could see was weeds in the biggest flower border.  Over the weekend I have done some weeding in the other borders but yesterday I thought I would tackle the big border. I felt psyched up and ready for it.  To my surprise when I got there I had to play spot the weed. So I am happy to report that my plan is working, Yippee!!! The flowers are winning.

An Azalea

Purple rhododendron

I thought that the Rhododendrons never flowered in this garden…… I have never seen them flower before.   They must have been flowering during the seasonal monsoon every other year and I have missed them.

Red rhododendron

More surprises

Hiding in the grass

Honesty

Wisteria

Day lily

Yellow honey suckle

A completely Yellow Flag Iris by the pond

I am really beginning to regret saying that all the Irises in the garden were the same colour.  I must have thought this was a really late daffodil every other year ….. maybe it was raining and I did not look out the window properly.  I have been informed that the Yellow Flag Iris is a native of Scotland and the marshy conditions by the pond as just right for it.   I am running out of excuses now with regard to my Iris spotting ability …. but their are still some more Irises to flower yet, so as to how many colours there are out there that still remains to be seen.

Have a guess what this is…..

My fruit makes nice Jelly

The flowers were really big, I have never seen such big flowers on a bramble bush.  Does this mean we will get bigger brambles. Time will tell.

This red and pink Broom greets the bees at the garden gate.

Broom

Finishing off with multicolored display from the Lupins which grow like weeds in this garden. Significant Other does think that they are weeds.  I managed to get a view of more  than one colour from the top corner of The Orchard. I might do another blog on just Lupins as everyone one always admires the variety of different colours. The smell in June from these is really heady.

Front ones are white and purple and this view looks down hill at some of the rest

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Green recycling – does burning weeds count or not….

I am now making progress in the garden as the weather has been dry but cooler for the last couple of days.  Our new compost pile has being seeing some use, but I have a dilemma about just quite what to put in it. It is very tempting to just shove all my weeding material in there.     Unfortunately very large percentage of what I would like to put in it is weeds or grass which would apparently not be the right mix.   The final decision about how much should be composted and how much should be burned was made for me when I discovered that some the nettles had ‘Black Fly’ on them.  If the black fly should spread it would be bad for the orchard in general and the new “wee pear trees” in particular. With that in mind, burning the affected thistles was the only option really.

So the up shot of this is, I now have a large a pile of stuff that has to be burned as usual…   We do not get issued composting bins out in ‘the stix’….. I suppose the carbon foot print would be too great ie picking it up from here and taking it some where else in Fife.  We would probably need a whole lorry just for us once a month.

Only about one tenth of what I have to burn

I have also noticed that I seem to have developed OCD  when it comes to weeds.  I find myself  with wheelbarrows loads of the same stuff.  Yesterday it was three barrow loads of thistles and three barrow loads of nettles.  Today it was four barrow loads of nettles and nine barrow loads of the remains of a New Zealand flax (that died of exposure during one of the severe winters we had back in 2010/11 and now sufficiently rotted away to be finally pulled out).  I decided to look into this and discovered two points (1) that most things seem to grow in patches and (2) I get into the rhythm of exerting just the right amount of tug to pull out a particular variety of weed.

The remains of the previous ‘burny pile’

They say ‘a weed is only a plant in the wrong place’.   I have also taken pity on some of the so called ‘weed’s.  I had to weed a path to the site of the last fire I had lit and on the way I came across a clump of very healthy looking mint.  You can see it in the center of the image above.  This mint must have escaped the last burning and I know for sure it came from what is now the ‘tattie patch’.  My friends and visitors are always admiring the mint plants in the garden so I dug it up and put it in a pot.  So that weed is now free to a good home, along with the ‘lemon balm’ I dug out of a border two days ago.

I also rescued what I think is a wee damson tree from that border too but I am hanging on to that.  I think it got in the  border because I have a habit of eating plums and greengages as I wander round the garden and discarding the stones in the borders.  Root stock for both plum trees and greenage is the wild damson.

The damson tree potted up and unafraid of the big wide world as it has been fending for itself already.

The growing conditions on the site of the ‘burny pile’ must be excellent because I also came across a magnificent looking specimen of that emblem of Scotland the  ‘Scottish Thistle’.  It must be the high potash levels….. it only took two weeks to get to this size.  I checked the date and found that the last time I lit a bonfire was when I posted my blog ‘Underneath the cherry tree and unexpected gifts’.  Every thing else in the garden is coming on too, but I will save that for the next blog.

This is biggest thistle in the garden….. look it is the same height as the spade.

Actually when I dug it up, I found out it was actually two thistles.  No, I did not keep them I put it on the bonfire with the giant ‘docken’ in the background of the shot.

Any hoo, on to lighting the bonfire.  I wanted it to go first time, so I used the old Xmas Tree which had dried out nicely with some cardboard, paper and just the one match.

Bonfire pre lighting the match

This photo was taken a minute later.

Whoosh and away it went.

The smells coming off the bonfire were great.  There was some mint, some angelica, (some snails maybe too), elephants ears, nettles.  Does this count as a BBQ or cooking over an open fire….. may be not.   Should I be worried about my carbon emissions or am I just recycling to make potash to put on the garden…… Questions, Questions.

Remember too that no weed killers or pesticides were used……. You cannot have it all roads.

So now I have done my blog on composting versus non carbon neutral recycling of heavily infested thistles, I am off for a very much-needed soak it the bath.

 

 

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How close is ‘too close’ to a wasps nest!!

Just a wee update on my progress….. Well since the weather has turned and it is raining again not much progress has been made. So that being the case I will just upload a few images of the flowers in bloom in my garden this week. These were taken just as the clouds rolled in.

My significant other had passed a comment that I should get closer to the flowers and insects to get better photographs….. So here are some close ups.

This is the same Iris featured in my blog Potting up Irises… but from a different angle

Now I said on my previous blog on Irises that all the Irises in my garden were the same variety.  But what I did not notice was that at the time the flowers were not fully open.   So when I went to photograph some more Irises round in front of the Castle….

mmm……. wait up…… there is a bit of gold on this one

I saw a flash of gold.   So I went in for a closer look….

It definitely has gold on it

Now a couple of days had passed since I had taken the photos of the the first lot I went back to check…..

No gold on this one…..

If the images are slightly blurry I apologize it was because the wind was blowing them aboot!!! That is why I had to hold this one and steady it.

Today I got some 8 by 6 prints of the Irises from a well known Chemist. I also got some really small ones to use as wee labels to give to the folk who buy my Irises at the Makers Market in Newburgh a week on Saturday.  My significant others ‘wee’ Heritage Pears Trees will be for sale there too.

I have also been practising making up bunches of cottage garden flowers to sell there too.  I did the table flowers for a Vintage Wedding last year. They were featured in a Bridal magazine.

A bunch of cottage garden flowers

I don’t think that the bluebells and the narcissi were in flower at the same time, as the peony roses and the lupins this time last year.  Makes a striking combination though.   Mmmm I think I used the wrong exposure setting on this the colours are not right.

One more piccie, but it is a bit blurry…..  I was nervous of getting any closer.

Don’t come any closer

It is a wasp’s nest on the inside of the roof of the garden shed…… I used the ZZZOOOOMMM lens and my hands were shaking a bit.  I know I am a coward, but just to justify myself.  I have been stung on the hand before when I was picking plums and it swelled up. You know what they say ‘once bitten, twice shy’.

 

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Herb garden on a ‘hot tin roof with a view’

Well, after a week of high temperatures which were, according to the newspapers ‘on a par with Rio de Janerio’, the weather in Scotland has returned to normal.  It only took 10 minutes to normalize …..  it went from 24 degrees centigrade to 14 degrees centigrade …. bang… just like that.  How did that happen so quickly.  Well, I will tell you.  Basically, the wind picked up and the sun went behind a cloud and never came back out.  I was out in the garden at the time and as I saw the black clouds rolling in, I decided to take the washing in…… The almost immediate drop in temperature had me shivering so much I had to take a jumper straight off the washing line and put it on me right away…… That is Scotland for you…… lol.

Oh well, I had so much to do in the garden and couldn’t get on with it because it was way too hot… So no excuses now.

I did a few things while the weather was hot…… Finally persuaded my significant other to take his ‘wee Heritage pear trees’ out of the green house.

Scottish Heritage pear trees

They look more comfy now out in the fresh air in the cold frame ….. protected from the rabbits by extra plastic mesh and a brick wall.  They are just fine.

See they are fine…. no more molly coddling…. Ok just a wee bittie

Some of the other plants in there are begging for their freedom…..

These ones are campaigning to be released into the garden.

I will plant them out tomorrow, it will be cooler.  I got these plants on Wednesday from the Cat Shop in Newburgh (it raises money for the Whinneybank Cat Sanctuary).  I was really lucky as I got almost the first choice of these plants just freshly dropped off for sale by some kind soul a few minutes before.  So much cheaper than the garden center and the money goes to support the Whinneybank Cat Sanctuary.   So I got some Snapdragons,  mini Sunflowers,  and a few other flowers. The best bit was, that I got Cucumber plants, Tomato plants and Chilli plants. I usually grow mine from seed but as you may know if you have read my blog The greenhouse is full, someone was ‘hogging the greenhouse’, so there was no room for me to grow my seedlings. Great stuff, as I can catch up now on the growing season.

Mean while in the green house, this lot below are demanding their rights!!!

Help the grapevine is trying to get us….. please move us into bigger pots or growbags

While on the other bench, up the other end…..

Cucumbers and herbs planted on Tuesday 22nd May before I bought some

And next to them more herbs potted on Saturday 26th May

The seeds mostly Basil were free with packs of Lurpak butter last year

A greenhouse in a greenhouse. It works the seeds are sprouting already…. look…..

Zoom in Zoom in…… there are signs of life already

Ok, shall we move on to more caged plants…..

The Scottish Strawberries are in High Security Fort Knox style cages….. A comment from them: Err, we don’t mind the cage….. it might keep oot the rabbits…. but fit a’ boot the mice and the slugs.

The Cherry Tree overseeing the new Veggie Plot has some further comments to make on security arrangements…

Those crows have been eyeing me up for weeks…. your joking aren’t you…. Finish the roof… what do you mean you’ve run oot o black mesh…… Help!!! No, Don’t leave it like this… the wind is picking up.

Don’t worry.  I have black mesh over top the cherry tree and if I canny get more black mesh I will improvise.  More wooden supports are also on the way.  I was sawing up the wood for this on Sunday morning as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky.  This job has abandoned twice due to the heat making working on it impossible.  My son and helper even begging to go indoors.  Not surprising as the temperature soared higher and higher too, breaking records for May.

Oh and one of Bob’s Honey Bees was trying the mesh for access…… (Bob has a couple of hives not far away). This was while me and the wee one were trying to attach the mesh to the posts….. Nearly stood on the wee bee….

Ok, I made it through but you better tell him about the hole in the black plastic

Ok, I can get back oot too!! Carry on

A final word from some herbs bought from Mr Lear stall ‘Plants for Purpose’ at Perth out door market a few Saturdays ago and then put into bigger pots on Saturday …..  These are safe on top of the roof of the wood shed and some are even more safe in the hanging baskets at the kitchen door…..

What a ‘braw’ view of the castle ….. crows, what crows, oh those crows……. Wait a minute this tin roof is roasting…….. Err, could we come down please.

So despite the blistering heat of the last week I have achieved somethings….

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Warm weather activity…. Name that flower?

Another day of blistering heat here on the East Coat of  Scotland …… temperature hovering just below 30 degrees C at midday.  So what is in flower in the garden today …. and more importantly try to find out what they are….

Right start with something easy

Bramley Seedling Apple Blossom

This Quest, to find names for all the flowers in my garden. has been driven on by glorious images from the Chelsea Flower Show……. I keep seeing things I have in my garden in some of the shots….. but they don’t discuss or describe every flower….. There I am muttering at the TV’ no not that the other one tell me about the other one’……..  Can someone not invent an app where I take a picture of a flower and submit it and 10 seconds later…… Ta da …. It comes up with  some gobbledy gook latin name that I can at least find in a book.

This next one looks kind of like might be related to a poppy. Anyone got any idea…

Little yellow flowers

 I need to find out what I have in the garden.  Take for instance the other day when I was speaking to a friend the other day, she was looking for some tall plants for her garden.  Well, I have some that could be divided…. so I said she could have some… She said ‘what are they called’…. I said ‘I don’t know I never planted them they were in the garden when we got it’..   As  they are not in flower at the moment I am now frantically looking through photographs of the garden to see if I can spot them.  So my mission is to try to identify every flower in the garden.  But I need to get some help or a least source a decent book…

mmm Purple flowers Is this a Daphne Burkwoodi

Clematis of unknown variety


I know this one…. Peony Rose

Argh. I do know this one but I have forgotten…. wait. wait for it. it is coming back to me …..( quick google search to check)  yes it is ………  Aqualija – very common here in Fife. Self seeding.

I have been surfing the net to find out the identity of my irises in particular and flowers in general ….. Guess what I found out.  No laughing now…. promise…. OK then…. Irises are sold bare rooted.  I have wasted my time potting them up!!

So here is what I done now….. Remember the hole I got the earth to pot up the irises with, well I have made it bigger ….. stuck them all in there to keep the roots moist and I will fish them out next Saturday. Oh well, you live and learn.  Upside…. they will be a lot lighter and easier to carry now. It could have been worse I could have found out after the Makers Market.

Lastly anyone know this little one……

Little white flowers

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